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tv   Anderson Cooper 360  CNN  September 10, 2013 5:00pm-6:01pm PDT

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it is, erin? >> pretty incredible when you think about the risks for the united states and around the world. >> thank you. thank you for watching as we get ready for the president's speech, of course, tomorrow september 11th we'll be joined by the chairman of the comity. right now it's time for right now it's time for anderson. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com erin, thanks. good evening evening. four themes we're told including delay in the march to military action to explore russia's proposal for ending the chemical weapons crisis. he'll not issue the full-throated war cry we expected 36 hours ago. things have certainly changed, nor will lawmakers who met today with the president will talk solely about legislation authorizing the use of force against syria. they are already considering alternatives, nor will secretary of state kerry will scamling to line up the willing to strike syria. instead he'll travel to geneva
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to meet with his counter point. things, as we've said, changed. bashar al-assad cannot deny the weapons. they are talking about disclosing locations, joining a treaty banning them and giving them up. things changed so drastically and quickly in the last day and a half, it can be hard to keep up. as we wait to hear from president obama, we'll walk you through the russian proposal to put the arsenal under global control and look at the potential snags, whether to keep the force on the table and whether the world can trust a dishonest regime and up until now destruction with the ally. we start with nick paton walsh on the deal making. nick, what's the latest there? >> reporter: all eyes on the meeting in geneva after frankly a bewildering day of closed door da plom see starting out with the french in the morning who held closed-door meetings.
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there were a lot of things they bundled in there to try, i think, perhaps and put the russians off in someway they wanted to see out right condemnation of the regime on the 21st of august and wanted to see the serious consequences on the table, if syria didn't move fast enough to put weapons under control and of course, threw in there the fact the perpetrators could have a safe place trial. so we saw the russians move quickly against that suggesting emergency consultations to address their own potential text of resolution and out of nowhere they suddenly withdraw the demand for that meeting. no one is quite sure what their game plan is here, but of course, people wondering if it's possible for washington to bridge the enormous gulf in their approach towards this. >> thursday, the key date to look for the russians are saying they would not support any resolution that includes the use of military force if assad didn't follow through on promises about chemical weapons. >> absolutely. that's what vladimir putin
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claimed today, how can you expect a country to disarm if it's facing the threat of being attacked and what is russia's game plan here? are they perhaps not liking what they could have presented at the security counsel by the west and seeking to push syria into disarmament or perhaps thinking they can persuade kerry into a resolution during the talks on gene geneva. moscow has a diplomatic bowl in their hands in the last 24 hours. the last two years of bloodshed and lies from the regime, what is surprising over the last 36 hours how few players dismissed it out right. not the syrians, lawmakers. listen senator john mccain speaking this emergency with "new day". >> it must be examined and i think we could have a very good initial test, chris, and that would be the immediate dispatch of monitors, international
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monitors to these chemical weapon sites, which we know where most of them are, and secure them so that they can't be used by bashar assad and work out the procedures for keeping them under national control and the removal. we could do that immediately. no, i am very skeptical, very, very skeptical but the fact is you can't pass up this opportunity if it is one, but you've got to right away determine whether or not it's real or not. >> that's the question, is it real or not? there are a lot of other questions of course when it comes to disarming syria. joining us now is a cnn analyst david kay and serves on the state department's international security advisory board. appreciate you being with us, david. senator mccain said we know where the majority of the chemical weapons sites are. is that true? >> i seriously doubt it given they have been moving the chemical weapons as
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administration said itself. we may know where they are and maybe where a majority are now but look, it's going to be up to the syrians to disclose where they are and the amounts that they have and the types of weapons in each location, if this agreement is to work. >> this may be a dumb question, but what does a chemical weapons site look like? are you talking about a rocket with, you know, a war head on it filled with chemical weapons, a warehouse full of chemical weapons? does it look like? >> relatively little of it is actually war heads sitting on rockets or next to artillery shells or ready for aircraft, although there are some like that. most of it is stored in four to five bunkers. sarin is sir rin when mixed together and does when mixed right. more stable, lasts longer, some of that may be prepared but most
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is probably by area form. mustard gas is there. the oldest of the chemical class chemical weapons but also, many ways the most difficult to handle and dispose of. >> logistically is is possible to safely secure chemical weapons in the middle of a civil war? how many people would this take? how many inspectors would this take? do they need protection? kind of operation would this be? >> to be honest, nobody knows. we never tried to do that. i led inspection teams into iraq in 1991 in very intrusive inspections but after iraq lost the war but not the country. for a matter of weeks, saddam cooperated with and stopped cooperating and we ran into rebuff after rebuff. we didn't have other people, other than the regime shooting at us. this is a situation, very fluid, it's going to be very difficult to provide both the security as well as the technical issues of
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securing the weapons, monitoring them so that you're sure nobody is cheating or moving, and this is before you get to the issue of how do you dismantle and destroy this huge stockpile of chemical weapons. >> people say it's the largest stockpile of chemical weapons syria has now. in terms of numbers of people involved just to secure the sites, not even talking about destroying the chemical weapons, are we talking a thousand people, 10,000 people? how many inspectors? >> if the syrian army provides the security, the outer security that protects inspectors, you could do it probably -- i guess i would be comfortable with 500 to 1,000. you don't put a single inspector at each chemical weapons site. this is teams. and you also need protective gear. chemical weapons sites are toxic
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environments to go in. you have weapons that leak so you need the whole support structure that will keep you alive and safe while you monitor the weapons that guard and keep anyone from stealing. >> you also have to buy in from the different rebel factions in order to ensure some sort of production for these inspectors. in term s -- >> anderson, that will probably be the hardest task because we know at least some of the rebel groups have historically, over the last ten years, been seeking chemical weapons for their own use. >> right, these al qaeda affiliated groups that would love to have chemical weapons or any other weapons. in terms of actually destroying these weapons, i mean, well, actually before the destruction of the weapons, the securing of the sites, in a little bit i did an interview with a senator talking about giving an at may tum to syria saying they have to provide access in days, two
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weeks, three weeks, is that realistic at all? >> certainly a realistic test as to the syrian's seriousness. the problem is they may well test our ability to follow through on it. the organization for the prohibition of chemical weapons and the hague does not have that many inspectors to do it and doing other things. >> in terms of destroying the actual chemical weapons, that's years, isn't it? >> if you do it in a safe and responsible way, it's going to take a considerable amount of time. it took years in the case of iraq. it can be done, but look, dissuade yourself from the idea you'll move these chemical weapons to someplace outside of syria. that's probably the least safe thing to do, and where would you move them? we can't even move chemical weapons inside the united states from one state to the other. no one wants to take a freighter out of lebanon, load it with chemical weapons and sail it off somewhere. >> yeah, a lot of things the consider. a lot of moving wards.
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appreciate your expertise. thank you very much. see you later at 10:00. i'll get reaction and bring in fran townsend, fran sits on the advisory boards and mike, senior fellow at the brookings institution. fran, what do you make? it is sobering the logistics of this thing? >> that's right. that, anderson, presumes a plan, right? you're talking about the difficulty in actually executing some agreement that you could get these parties to. it's clear the reason secretary kerry is going to geneva to meet with the russian foreign ministers, there is not a plan on the table or nothing they can agree on, and what kind of an agreement would there be if there wasn't some punitive potentially military action that would come if they didn't follow through on it? >> mike, i understand you believe the proposal is nothing more than a charade that rewards
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bad behavior, correct? >> absolutely. the syrians are not about to give them up, not for a second. david kay just explained how difficult it is to do, even if the syrian government was actually a willing participant. they will string this thing along. i would remind you what former secretary of state colin powell said about assad. he said he's a pathological liar. this regime is in a different class from any other regime in the world, with exception of the north koreans. they cannot speak honestly and will not and we would be naive to think they would. >> on this program we followed this revolution on syria and war now there have been a number of promises made by the regime about seize fires and an agreement and other things that -- agreements they made with their people that they have time and again disregarded, violated, completely lied about, but mike, isn't there a benefit to or is there a benefit to
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pursuing this to at least you get the russians agreeing to something in the security counsel, and the russians on record as agreeing to something that the regime doesn't follow through on, then there's a course of action which would be clear. >> well, we have to pursue it because we threw it out there. but i would pursue it like senator mccain suggested insisting up front that they get -- that the russians get very tough very early. i presume the russians will start watering this thing down right away, but we're making a mistake if we take it seriously, even if they -- even if they agree to it. the russians are playing a different game for us. the game isn't chemical weapons. they don't care about chemical weapons. they wants a sad to win the civil war and what they are getting is huge. they are getting basically a unilateral disarmament. we have become the partners of assad in removing the chemical weapons. we defined the syrian problem as
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chemical weapons, not the assad regime. that's a huge win for russia and they will keep pursuing that because that's what they really care about. >> fran, let me push back on that idea. you -- supporters of the obama administration would say look, president obama is getting -- could be getting exactly what he wanted all along. he didn't want to wade into the syrian civil war and clearly new york city fan of assad, he has always drawn the line as the use of chemical weapons and standing up internationally to maintaining that ban on chemical weapons and this, if it was followed through on, would give him that. >> well, the -- yeah, anderson. let's be clear, military intervention in and of itself is not a strategy. i said that from the beginning. so a military action, whether you take it or nearly threaten it is part, should be, needs to be part of a larger strategy in part of diplomatic effort. that the true. if in fact, the threat of military force gets them to the negotiating table and you can accomplish something, that's a
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win for the president. but i think we have to remember, look, the last time the russians au offerer offerered to broker a deal, i'm deeply skeptical. the history of the assad regime is one of deceit. the russians are acting in their own self--interest. if this falls apart administration has to be disciplined about testing it quickly and dismissing it quickly if it's a fake. >> you're saying testing it quickly, get some sort of assurances and people in there on the ground to test whether or not we'll be able to find the chemical weapons as david said and at least get people in there and test out the regime. >> that's right. you got to know quickly if it's a fake. if it's a fake, the president needs to proceed with the plan. >> mike, clearly, it essential for the united states if you agree with president obama to maintain the threat of the use of force, which is something
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russia is saying absolutely you cannot do. >> the problem is the threat of force has been taken off the table. president obama was winding up to deliver a kind of heart-hearted threat of force and congress snatched it from his hands. this is the thing that bothers me the most about this. there is -- if president obama tests this, as we're suggesting he should, and finds out that in fact, the russians are not sincere, what is plan b? will he turn to? he doesn't have a credible force? for that reason he'll see this as his political out and has a political intcentive to make it look like more than it is. >> anderson, the one thing i would say the president going through the steps of testing this may actually allow him and secretary kerry to build a broader international coalition, so there is value in there. that has to be seen as part of the effort. >> good to be fair. we'll see what the president says tonight. thank you fran, mike. you can follow me on twitter at
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anderson comer. next, more inside details on who president obama will say and do. we'll check in with our co correspondents and hear from a key lawmaker right after this. ♪ [ male announcer ] a man. a man and his truck...
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we have about 40 minutes before president obama's address, the information on syria and the willingness to explore the diplomatic way out of the crisis. his speech writer scramling. his old colleagues were tinkering with language but were just about done. john will join us shortly.
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the latest from pennsylvania avenue. jim acost to joins us and dana bash is at the capital. jim, we noted broad themes we're hearing the president will outline tonight. key questions seems to be a timeline for this diplomatic effort. do we know the president will actually set a time lane? >> anderson, they said no, they don't expect the president to issue a hard and fast timeline but they also said president bashar al-assad after syria doesn't have the intention to follow through on the promise to get rid of the stockpiles but said the president will go through four teams, one why syria and the use of chemical weapons in the national interest of the u.s., why bashar al-assad should be held accountable for the use of those weapons. also, anderson, the president is expected to talk about the military response. we've heard some of this before but he will reemphasize how a military response will be limited in scope.
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it will not be another iraq or syria or libya, the president is expected to say tonight and also, and finally, anderson, the developments of the last 24 hours, the diplomatic opportunity that came out of the proposal for bashar al-assad to get rid of the chemical weapons that are in this country now, the president will be walking through that in his speech tonight, but anderson, getting back to the timeline, this white house official did say while there is a delay, the president is calling for a delay before any kind of action is taken, military action is taken that this is not an indefinite delay. that's the message he took to capitol hill earlier today and the message he'll deliver tonight, bashar al-assad has time, but not much time. >> what are you hearing from sen tomorro tors? >> the president or white house asked if he could come up today to talk to democratic sen
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tomorrows and republican senators to convince them to vote for military action against syria and things changed so much over the past 24 hours, he came up and said i need time, guys, i need time to let this diplomatic process play out. reading between the lines, according to so many senators i spoke to in both of the meetings, he said i need time because based on what we reported and heard, these resolutions were not going to pass either the democratic senate or republican led house. they don't want to do anything that will undermine what they say is really critical for this diplomatic process, which is the actual threat of military force. so that's one of the main reasons they don't want to take any voetes right now. one other piece of color, he made clear to them he knows that overwhelming opposition is out there in the public and that even he can't turn the tide in a big way. he said with regard to his speaking skills, he said i'm good but not that good. anderson?
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>> we'll see how he is tonight. more on the legislative side of things. i spoke with bob casey, democrat of pennsylvania. senator, this alternative resolution you're working on, as i understand it, it would require passage of the u.n. security counsel of assad using chemical weapons ex seat a deadline to get rid of the stockpile and a military strike would be authorized if that deadline isn't met. what can you tell us? >> we're trying to do everything possible to make sure first and formost that the regime in syria and the russians know that we're going to continue to pressure them to come to a resolution of this, but i think there is enough consensus to develop a strategy where we might be able to get an even better result, meaning all chemical weapons out of syria without fail. so that means the syrians and really the ball in the court of the syrian regime and the russian federation -- >> in terms of this resolution,
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though, putin, vladimir putin said today that this can only work if the u.s. and other countries renounce a plan to use force against syria. is that force continuing essential? >> i think it's critical to continue to put pressure, and that's the only reason we're having these discussions. >> you think we're only here because of that threat of force? >> right, exactly. i think -- i don't like what mr. putin said today and it would -- if he thinks that insisting on that will move us to move in that direction, i think he's mistaken. some of these are rhetorical back and forth that sometimes happens at this stage. i don't put too much weight on that yet but i think we got to continue to let them know that this was a crime against humanity, and it needs a response. >> how realistic do you think it is for this regime, for the assad regime to get rid of stockpiles? according to a lot of reports, the world's largest stockpile of chemical weapons,
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david kay, weapons inspector said it would take more than a thousand inspectors on the ground there, who knows how many, the agreement of rebels, as well as the assad regime and take a long time to actually destroy the stockpiles. show realistic is this? >> it is -- i think it's a difficult challenge but my sense of this and this -- we're still looking at this from -- we have to examine some intelligence as well but my sense of this is that there is a cumulative nature to the intel that our government has, the intel that's been developed in the region by several different countries. so i think there is a good sense of where these are. the russians of course, themselves can help us. the regime in syria claims, assert that they will be very forthright in making sure they take inspectors and representatives of the u.n. and international community to the
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sites. it has to be a complete and total removal -- >> you're talking about a relatively short timetable. do you have a number in mind? do you have a sense of how long the regime should be given to, at the very least, account for, you know, or open up bringing inspectors to their sites, you know, destroying them is a whole other issue. >> if it were up to me and i had to make my call, it would say it would be days for sure and not weeks. some have suggested a window of maybe two weeks. we'll have to work with the administration and those who can give us a better sense how long this might take. it has to be a reasonable length of time, but not such a length that you get into a delay and therefore the pressure and the urgency to deal with this crime is diminished or degraded. >> so you're saying you would want the syrian regime within the spiace of two weeks or days you said, to what?
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provide access to the sites, to u.n. personnel? >> absolutely. now the precondition to even take that step would have to be a u.n. security counsel resolution. i do think there is a growing consensus this might be a way to deal with the problem forthrightly but deal with the problem in a way that you remove the threat completely and you do it without having to use a military means to achieve that. it could be a better result, frankly, than he might be able to achieve with the military operation. >> there are a lot of people who believe that the united states, that you, that the administration is basically being snowed by russia by syria, to that you say what? >> well, when i first heard it, i was frankly dismissive of it, but in the last 24 hours, based upon reporting that's been done, based on some briefings, talking to the president today in our
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caucus, i have a better sense now about the parameters of this and the potential. i still have a lot of skeptic m skepticism. someone asked me today, do you believe that ronald reagan, trust but verify. i'm not even at the trust yet, but i'm positive we have to verify. >> appreciate your time. thank you. >> thank you. many americans, lawmakers, and voters alike called the call muddled. up next, has this harmed the president's case for taking action? we'll be right back. i got this. [thinking] is it that time? the son picks up the check? [thinking] i'm still working. he's retired. i hope he's saving. i hope he saved enough.
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president obama is expected to address the nation on the syrian crisis. he has hit work out out for him. the poll said they understand his policy, lawmakers in the snat and house are hammering it calling the language muddles or even worse. >> there is a degree of inco-her rens i haven't seen the likes of before. >> what is the imminent danger out united states? is the national security issue? please outline for that for me. >> i think that uncertainty on what may happen on day two, three and four is the big problem for administration. >> it has to show there is a plan and strategy. >> i'm dismayed at this administration's lack of clarity on syria. >> i understand why people are skeptical. i'm skeptical at this point. >> important for us to hear what the president has to say.
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he's got to make the case to the american people. >> one question tonight has president obama's ability to make a strong case on syria been hurt by this perceived lack of clarity? joining me is john king and gloria boringer, jake tapper, and chief washington wore spon danlt. before we get to the messaging of this, want to start with you because i know you're breaking news on the meeting with the russians tomorrow. >> there are two important meetings, anderson. tonight the president will layout a specific timeline or benchmark yet to see if this is legitimate and serious. tomorrow in the united nations the p 5, the permanent five members will meet and on thursday, secretary kerry sits down with his counter part the russian foreign minister. i'm told minutes ago by a senior administration official, that this is what they will demand talking to the russians. we need international control with timelines worked out with the russians and through the
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united nations and further moore, barbara starr says when secretary kerry sits down, he'll have a defense department team with chemical weapons and mass destruction weapons experts and they will test the seriousness buying is your friend, bashar al-assad give us inventory, tell us where they are and give people access? tomorrow at the united nations and the face-to-face to have a sense of whether this is serious and from there, everything else unfolds. >> i just talked to david kay, former weapons inspector in iraq and when you look at the nuts and bolts of this, the sheer number of weapons inspectors that would be needed, the whole issue of their security to look at these sites, i mean, it could be a very long timetable. >> certainly not a week, certainly not two weeks anderson in iraq after saddam hussein agreed to let inspectors came in, it took years to know what
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was there. they still weren't sure. the same thing the syrians may do, lied, obstructed and threatened. >> jake, we've seen the syrian regime do that time and time again and we did it with a deal and promises about reforms in their countries and a constitutional process and allowing demonstrations, all of it turned out to be lies. there is no guarantees this time around, either. >> i was just thinking that because we were thinking about the inco-her rens of the president's message and the contradictions. the russians, this week, said that they had evidence that it was the rebels who used chemical weapons and yet, of course, they are trying to broker the peace based on the assumption assad's regime was rebind it. we have messages perhaps from administration but we have actors here, unreliable and
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untrustworthy actors in bashar al-assad and frankly, in the russians, as well. >> gloria, how much do you think that the american public's concern about this is with this entire thing, how much is related to what -- you know, what certainly a lot of republicans are calling a muddied response from the obama administration? >> i think a lot. when the president zig zigzags and says there is a red line and says he's going to congress and leading up to the use of force but not, american public watches this and begins to sort of question the substance of what the president is talking about, and they also begin to think wait a minute, maybe you haven't thought this through. i think at the base of it, that's president obama's problem. when you look at his numbers on how he handles foreign policy, since january, anderson, he's declined 14 points. >> david, you've worked in white houses for republicans and
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democratic presidents. you heard john mccain say he's not seen the response. is that accurate? have you seen -- do you think the response is muddied. >> maybe, i went through watergate, anderson. that was muddy. certainly so. but in 40 years or so, not very often. this is quite rare. >> w why? points make it muddied. >> it's extraordinariry muddled. the middle east is a complex place. we're not playing checkers. we're playing three-dimensional chess in this and frankly, i'm not sure the president has the team he had in the first term. they are still coming together as a team. it's been hard for them, and clearly, the president himself is extraordinarily obvious what he wants here. he's drawn to the peace option, to the multilateral option and got a noble prize to stay out of
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war. i think that has a lot to do. president's need to be firm in their gut what they are about to do, especially when they pull the trigger. >> jake, the president said his job was to end wars, not necessarily to begin them. >> that's right. one of the things that we've seen, as president obama's term has proceeded is he's really developed a belief that there are real limits in what use of force can accomplish from talking -- from covering the white house as senior white house correspondent and knowing president obama and his team since 2006. the barack obama who okayed the surge of troops in afghanistan up to 100,000 from just over, i think, about 25,000 when he took office, that barack obama is different from the one we have in 2013. the 2013 barack obama i do not think would have okayed that surge in afghanistan. he's much more am bif lant,
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about what u.s. force can do and accomplish. i do think you see somebody who has gone through this process of sending men and women into harm's way, and wondering what it has accomplished, and i think that is what is informing his reluctance to involve himself in what everyone agrees is a very mirky, complicated situation that it's not clear if u.s. force will not result in a worse situation. nobody can guarantee that. i think that's one of the reasons we see the mixed messages from the white house. >> what we'll see tonight, anderson, is a president taking two roads at once, also, he's going to say we need to pursue this diplomatic initiative and say he's skeptical about it but say we've got to do that on the one hand, and on the other hand, we have to maintain the threat of the use of force. we have to make it real, and not imaginary. >> yeah. >> so he has to do two things at once. >> john, is there an advantage for the president, put asides
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the policies and reputation and things like that if one can. is there an advantage for him for the united states to pursue this diplomatic line with the russians and with syria and if it doesn't work out, then it still has achieved some of their goals of drawing some sort of a red line and they could still do military action if they insist? >> if it doesn't work out, he's back to the point of having to decide number one, can he get congressional authorization and number two if he doesn't, will he strike? if it works out and if syria gives up the chemical weapons, if russia is a partner in syria giving up the weapons, no matter how messy, the president will be judged by the ending, not the messy, muddled middle. the policy, that's one thing that weighs onhe president si. the people that raised money and worked for him and helped him, their one criticism is he
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communicates like a senator or law professor, not a ceo. once he makes the decision he forgets about resolutions and even my wife doubts this. i understand the anti war guys. i used to be one of them. when you're a ceo once you make a decision you look forward and implement it. >> you have to make the decision. >> yeah, we'll see what he says tonight. again, gloria thank you, john, jake tapper, just just about 19 minutes away from address of the nation. a live picture of the white house. wolf blitzer will join me and we'll dig deeper on what we can expect the president to say tonight. ♪
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welcome back. we're 14 or 15 minutes away from the president's speech that as under gone rewrites. wolf breelitzer joins me and we be together until the president's speech begins, wolf? >> i'm joined by former obama speech writer john, and democratic strategist dana brazil and cnn political come day tore ross. guys, thanks very much. john, you've written a lot of speeches for this president. you're still a young guy.
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from your perspective, how important is tonight's speech for this president? >> it's important and he sees it as on opportunity to layout the case, why what is going on in syria matters to people back here at home and i think he'll talk about why when a dictator uses chemical weapons and breaks international law, it endangers the national security and we need to respond. >> can he turn, kevin, public opinion around with this one speech? >> public opinion usually is not right then, it's a process. i think this is an important part of the parenthesis. i think john is right. i think the president has to focus on the why, why is this in america's national security interest and why it's a priority for him but answer the what, which is what comes next? do we hope to achieve? is part of the long-term strategy on the national security interest and stability in that region? i think if he can do that, he can then help, you know, change some constituents minds out there and work with congress.
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>> beyond the national security and the political considerations, donna, you believe there is a moral issue for the united states of america. >> absolutely. this is not just a game of politics but life or death. over 100,000 people killed by conventional means, 1500 by chemical means, 2 million people displaced as a result of the civil war. the president needs to layout to the american while, why it's in america, our interest to care about what is going on in syria and what he will do to holds a sad and others accountable. >> we're talking like we thought this was the speech the president would give five or since days ago, why we should go to war with syria. what makes it strange is the president on the verge of clearly failing to get congressional authorization for the war is going to be effectively explaining to the american people why he is, you know, reaching for and grabbing the lifeline that vladimir putin
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and the russians gave him. it's a fairly extraordinary turn of events. >> a dramatic turn of events and take us behind the scenes because you've been there and been in touch with colleagues, last-minute tinkering with the speech. they had to rewrite a big chunk of it over the last 48 hours. >> they had to take into account the developments. as the president said today, trust and verify. so i think that we have to see, obviously he'll hold out diploma si and knows it was the threat of force in the first place that got russia and syria to respond like this. so i think he'll continue to make the case while he wants to see it take it's course, we have to be ready to act if it fails. >> i think -- maybe let's ask kevin. do you agree the president's credible threat of military action convinced the russians and syrians they should at least
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think about destroying those chemical weapons? >> it's hard. one of the things there has been a great amount of consensus on is the president bungled this. >> how about the threat of force? h has that played a positive role? >> the threat of force has been steady weakening -- >> no, it hasn't -- [ overlapping speakers ] >> that option remains on the table except there aren't votes on the table in congress. the president won't strike without the votes. the question is what, what are russia and syria doing? we don't know. it would have made more sense if russia and syria were responding to the threat of force for them to have made this offer -- >> donna, go ahead. >> they know that a strike would change the balance in the civil war and wolf, what we failed to remember is that leaving these weapons unchecked, unguarded in the hands of potential terrorist, assad using them again will reek a lot of harm, not just over the middle east
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but possibly here. i think the president's threat, the threat he used and will continue to use has brought these new players to the table and let's see if it works. >> john, you've been involved with the president in writing these speeches. he's a hands-on and gets involved in drafting. he's not just somebody who reads it and makes a few changes. does he rehearse and go before the camera and practice and practice knowing the next 15 minutes, how long this speech presumably could be very important. >> i think for any big speech, most presidents practice the speech. he does the same thing when it's a very big speech, and -- but he does get very involved in the writing of the speech. i know he was very involved in the writing of this one. >> very involved, spends a lot of time meeting. >> and by himself write sglg this is the kind of speech, kevin, a national security speech, so many people have to sign off because there are diplomatic, the pentagon, state
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department, intelligence community have to clear basically what the president, they have to feel comfortable with what he's saying. >> also, as we've seen, so many circumstances have changed just today in the last 12 hours the president has to put a frame that leaves viable options. one is if these diplomatic over tours by the french and russians, they don't materialize, should he need to go back to congress for authorization. >> we're moments away from the start of the president's speech. guys, don't go too far away. anderson, back to you. the opposition, the free syrian army calls the proposal to get syria to hand over the chemical weapons nothing but a stalling tactic. now a lot of people are questioning just how realistic, even how doable this idea is. you heard former weapons inspector david kay this evening talking about it. i want to drill down on this because the more we learn about it. the phonier the issue sounds. our chief national security
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correspond dan correspond dant has a reality check. administration has to be walking in with eyes wide open. do you have a sense how realistic it might be? >> if sells force was a tough sale, selling this plan is equally as tough. you get six known sites, many more unknown sites. you know over the last several weeks because of the threat of force and the civil war, this government has been moving those chemical weapons around, and that's during peacetime, difficult enough. this is happening during a war. you got to keep inspectors going safe and the risk the rebels will go after the weapons, as well. a lot of risks that make it difficult to sell the peace plan and force. >> as david kay pointed out, it can take years to actually destroy the weapons and it probably has to be done on site because you will not be transporting chemical weapons through unstable areas in syria and then get them on a boat in
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lebanon or something. >> no question. the short-hand i've been given is weeks to do an inventory of the sites, months to secure them and years to destroy them. the u.s. government is still destroying some chemical weapons. that comes in a peaceful country. this is not a peaceful country. you got to add time to the timeline, as well. >> the u.s. is destroying chemical weapons and decided to destroy the weapons under richard nixon so you get a sense of timeline there. -- appreciat reporting. we have a lot to talk about after the president's address. i want to bring in part of the 360 later panel and see what they will look for. joining me is christiane. over the last 24 hours this
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shifted. >> it has. it brought russia slash syria to this position now. we're waiting to see whether it's serious and what they will say when it comes to the united natio nations. will russia agree to have the threat of force in that. >> putin says no? >> right, where does that leave us? i think that there is no question about that. the president needs to make absolutely clear which obviously he will in his speech that that is what he's going to go after continually if this diploma see doesn't work. he was obviously a politician but says knowing how this works, he was convinced in the g 20 meeting a week ago, president obama convinced president putin he was serious and going to go and take this military strike unless there was another alternative. so i think, you know, he's got to make the moral cause about weapons of mass destruction and make the cause about the credibility gap of the united states, if they don't pursue
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this to the very end he'll talk about, you know, securing these weapons and also, explaining it in america's national security interest. >> when you look at the details, i mean, we heard from david kay. when you look at the details of the difficulty, how long it takes and how many people, more than a thousand inspectors, 500 to a thousand, david kay said, the devil is in the details. >> the devil is in the details but the bigger problem is the sale. the president fund mentally was approaching this with the idea he had to sell the idea that it was important to take military action against syria, and what we know going into the speeches, he did not have a majority of the american people. he did not have majority of the congress or nato. he did not have a majority of the united nations security counsel. in other words, a very tough sale and now you have the exit strategy and alternative which is a potential diplomatic solution, very fraud, complicated with the problems
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you're describing but imagine how much more difficult it becomes to convince people that look, this is a vital national security interest worth military intervention when people are going to say but wait a minute, why don't you give diplomacy a chance? there is an idea of an imminent danger here we need to use military intervention and there is a need for an american air strike. >> if there isn't an immediate need but a general there has to be a red line. the world cannot allow the use of chemical weapons. is there a means if it doesn't work out -- >> he's clearly going to. obviously, this speech will lay it out. in fact, some congressional allies, i spoke to van hall lon -- holland, he said they have 30 days to work out a diplomatic
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solution to this and if that doesn't happen, then the president would get the authority to do the military efforts. so i think that that has to be the needle that's being threaded tonight. the whole hearted, you know, full throttle attempt to pursue this diplomatic initiative to it's end and if that doesn't work, also, to build the case for a military strike. let's not forget the massive and international debate over what won't be a land war or any kind on sustained military campaign but perhaps a couple of days of cruise missile strikes and perhaps air strikes they call stand off strikes. >> does anyone believe that they are getting into a war that will end up -- >> that raises an interesting problem is that there are two rational for the action but two groups of people who want some kind of military action. the people who want action that deals with the issue of chemical weapons and the importance of
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maintaining that norm, and so there is that and for those people, this diplomatic root says this is a big deal, take it seriously. there is another group of people, frankly, who want to use the chemical weapons issue as a way to depose assad and alter the balance of power in syria and get rid of a brutal dictator. they will be very unsatisfied, dissatisfied. somebody like john mccain probably says wait a minute, we had this opportunity to help the remembers and get rid of assad and now we're stuck negotiating with assad about letting inspectors come in -- >> we have to pursue it -- >> yes, but the fiercest criticism is partly that, that now they say this is linking president obama really like this with putin and assad because if this is to work, then assad is going to be our guy. he's the one who will be, you
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know, handing over these weapons and we have to pursue it to the end. so it basically means, according to the critics, there is no more get rid of assad. assad step down. that's gone according to critics. >> vladimir putin is achieving two main objectives here. his main objectives were he wants to keep assad in power. well this ratifies assad's status because we have to deal with him. he has to let inspectors in. the second thing is these chemical weapons would not possibly fall in the hands of militants who might use them in chechnya and russia. this gets the chemical weapons either out of syria or destroyed. it's a win/win for putin. i'll be back at 10:00 with ac 360. we're expecting president obama any second now. you see the podium there. the east room at the white house.
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i want to hand it over to wolf blitzer as we awade the president's speech. wolf? we're following breaking news. new details on what president obama will say in the white house east room tonight. i'm told he'll explain why the regime of bashar al-assad must be held accountable. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer in washington. we're less than 90 seconds away from one of the most critical moments of the entire obama presidency. i'm told he'll say they are prepared to launch targeted and limited air strikes against syria without u.s. ground troops and not like the wars he'll say in iraq and afghanistan. he'll tell the nation that the threat of military action by the united states has already helped convince bashar al-assad to agree to give up control of the chemical weapons stockpiles. the u.s.

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